Hunting for back-to-school deals

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When it comes to raising kids, nothing rivals the expense of the holidays like the beginning of the school year.

As summer comes to a close, you'll find your barefooted child in need of new shoes, a new backpack, new shirts and pants, and new sweatshirts that may or may not get lost on the playground in the first week.

And let's not forget the expense of paper and pencils, fancy calculators, and all the other necessities to get your kid through the school year.

Whether your child has just begun kindergarten or is ending his final year of high school, here are a few different ways you can save on back-to-school clothing and supplies for the year.

<b>Host a clothing swap.</b> At the rate most kids are growing, they're bound to outgrow their clothes before they have a chance to put some wear and tear into them. Invite all your parent friends to your home, and share the outgrown wardrobe.

You'll not only free up space in your child's dresser drawers, you'll come home with free, new-to-your-child clothing.

And any clothing that isn't snatched up can be donated to your local thrift shop or shelter.

<b>Go thrifting for new clothes.</b> Second-hand clothing stores sometimes get a bad rap. But no one will be the wiser if your child comes to school wearing a pair of barely-used shoes or like-new clothing.

It takes a little bit of treasure hunting and a lot of patience, but it's possible to bring home some pretty decent finds for just mere dollars after an afternoon of thrifting.

<b>Consign on a dime.</b> The nice thing about consignment shops is that the stores generally only accept items of reasonably high quality. It's also become a socially acceptable way to pick up some stylish threads.

Teenagers flock to places like Plato's Closet — a national franchise consignment chain with a store in Santa Rosa — which only carries name-brand fashions in almost-new condition.

Because the sale items are secondhand, the prices are kept low. This is especially true of designer jeans, which might carry a $100 price tag brand new, but can cost less than $20 on consignment.

<b>Attend the North Bay's Just Between Friends consignment sale.</b> This biannual event is held in the fall and spring seasons at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, and has become the path to saving money for many young families.

The sale is geared toward families with kids in elementary grades and younger. It sells consigned items in excellent condition and personally inspected by the Just Between Friends franchise owners, Matt and Jennifer Hundley.

Along with strollers, playpens, toys and other vital necessities for young children, there are also plenty of items for the school-aged child as well. There will be rows of clothing, shoes, backpacks, and more at hugely discounted prices.

The next sale will be held Friday through Sept. 8, with special pre-sale shopping times on Thursday for first-time parents and grandparents, teachers, child care providers, and members of the military.

On Sept. 8, admission is free and everything is 50 percent off. Visit their website at for information on sale times and more.

<b>Read the advertising mailers.</b> It never fails. You get all your supply shopping done at one store, only to find out you missed the unbeatable sales going on at another. Staples might have binder paper on sale for mere pennies, but Target could be holding an amazing sale on pens and pencils. Stay ahead of the game by always perusing the mailers before you head out to the stores.

<b>Shop at a dollar store.</b> You can't get much for a dollar these days. But at the dollar stores you can get paper lunch bags, sandwich bags, antiseptic wipes, craft supplies, binders, and more.

But be careful; sometimes even the dollar stores' low prices can be more than the even lower deals a few office supply stores hold in honor of back-to-school time.

<i>Crissi Langwell writes about families and entertainment for the Press Democrat. You can reach her at</i>

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